A nutrient-dense diet with plenty of plant-based foods can help people recover from COVID-19 by supporting their immune system and managing inflammation. Stronger flavors may help those who have lost their sense of smell and taste.
This article looks at what experts advise to eat when individuals have COVID-19.
This article also details the symptoms of COVID-19, how the loss of taste and smell affects diet, what to do if vomiting occurs, and some frequently asked questions.
All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eating a nutritious diet is an essential consideration in recovering from COVID-19.
The following foods and nutrients may help a person recover from the disease.
According to a 2022 review, experts associate a diet involving healthy, plant-based foods with a lower risk and severity of COVID-19. In addition, the study found that a healthy, plant-based diet may particularly benefit people with higher socioeconomic deprivation.
A diet high in saturated fat
Therefore, eating the following foods can provide fiber, essential vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals, which are helpful compounds that plants produce.
Fiber and protein
The review also notes that dietary fiber consumption correlates with lower mortality from infectious and respiratory diseases. Consuming fiber can also lead to more favorable gut bacteria, which lowers inflammation. People can consume beneficial fiber in:
- whole grains such as brown rice, bread, pasta, buckwheat, rye, spelt, oats
- fruits and vegetables
- legumes, beans, and lentils
Omega-3 fatty acids
- anti-inflammatory effects
- stimulating the immune system
- possible antiviral effects
Oily fish is a high source of omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, plant-based foods, such as flaxseed, walnuts, and hemp, contain alpha-linolenic acid, which the body can convert to EPA and DHA. People can also take an omega-3 supplement from fish or algae.
However, people can include vitamin C-rich foods in their diet when they have COVID-19 to help support their immune system. These
- vegetables, such as peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, green peas, and spinach
- fruit, such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwifruit, and strawberries
- juices, such as orange juice, tomato juice, or green smoothies
Vitamin D plays an important role in the body’s immune system.
People get vitamin D from exposure to the sun and foods such as beef liver, egg yolks, cheese, and fortified breakfast cereals.
However, zinc is an essential mineral for immune function, and eating foods that contain the substance may support recovery from illness.
Foods containing zinc
- meat and poultry such as beef, pork, and chicken
- beans such as chickpeas and kidney beans
- seafood such as oysters, crab, flounder, and sole
- dairy foods such as cheese and yogurt
- nuts and seeds
People who have symptoms of COVID-19 should follow their country-specific guidance about testing and isolation.
- sore throat
- fever or chills
- congestion or runny nose
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- muscle or body aches
- new loss of taste or smell
- nausea or vomiting
A 2020 meta-analysis of research estimates that
People who experience a loss of smell or taste may go off foods they usually eat or prefer foods with more salt, sugar, or fat, as they may be able to taste these more. However, individuals need to ensure they eat plenty of fruit and vegetables for their vitamin and antioxidant benefits. Avoiding too many high sugar or high fat foods is also advisable, as these can be inflammatory.
Additionally, people can try adding more robust flavors such as citrus, herbs, and spices.
Some people experience nausea or vomiting as symptoms of COVID-19. They may not feel like eating but should ensure they hydrate with fluids.
Individuals should consult a doctor if they have excessive vomiting or go off food for longer than expected.
Here are some frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and food.
How long can a person with COVID-19 spread the coronavirus?
According to the CDC, most people with mild to moderate COVID-19 can spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease, no more than
However, most individuals with more severe to critical illnesses are likely to be able to spread the virus no more than 20 days after their symptoms began.
Should a person sanitize food packaging?
However, people can wipe down food packaging with an antibacterial wipe as an extra precaution.
Can a nutritious diet support the immune system during the COVID-19 pandemic?
When someone has COVID-19, they should aim to eat a nutritious, balanced diet that supports their immune system.
Nutrients, such as vitamin C, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids, can help the process of recovery. Similarly, a person should ensure adequate fiber and protein from nutritious sources.
If someone has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should avoid eating too many inflammatory foods such as sugar and fat. Instead, they may want to try eating individual fruits and vegetables rather than one-pot meals that disguise their flavor.